The Babies' Our House on the Hill making waves
In the canon of surf-inspired, decidedly West Coast jangle pop, saturation is the norm. Bands who have capitalized on sunny, reverb-soaked sounds are a dime a dozen, often trying to emulate the success of Best Coast’s brilliant first album (prior to Bethany Cosentino’s Urban Outfitters sellout). Even Best Coast itself tried to be Best Coast on its follow-up album, 2012’s lackluster The Only Place.
At first listen to The Babies’ single from Our House On The Hill, the head-nodding “Baby,” it’d be all too easy to pigeonhole the Los Angeles-based band as just another surf group.
It’s when you dig into the band’s accolades and digest the album as a whole that you realize The Babies holds a wealth of promise. Formed by Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls, Justin Sullivan of Bossy and Kevin Morby of Woods, The Babies could easily be labeled as an indie supergroup — if the phrase “indie supergroup” wasn’t an oxymoron, that is.
From the opening strums of “Alligator,” Our House’s first track, it’s easy to tell that this is an approachable album. The lyricism is straightforward and relatable, the musicianship is delightfully loose and the vocal interplay between Ramone and Morby harkens to eras past.
Out of that vast pool of musical talent comes the true accreditation of a pop band — hooks that are as delightfully enjoyable as anything on the radio, sans the embarrassment of admitting to listening to such things. “Get Lost” is a standout that’s toe-tapping good, layering fuzzed-out guitars, jingle bells and Morby’s yawping vocal approach together to create a sugary confection of a song without being too sweet.
Morby also proves to be as sensitive as he is uplifting, engaging the listener with the stripped-down “Mean” halfway through the album. Though he utilizes a spaced-out backup vocal from Ramone, it’s the arrangement of Morby’s heart-on-a-sleeve lyrics over a plucked nylon-stringed guitar that’s riveting above all else.
If Ramone’s success with Vivian Girls and Morby’s prolific body of work with Woods are any indication of the things to come for The Babies, there are bound to be more expansive and adventurous releases from the band. The ground covered on Our House, while fitting nicely into classification for the iTunes crowd, shows that jangle pop can be both well-crafted and exude true singer-songwriter elements in the same candy-coated release.